The 1980s gave us a ton of films that, for those of us who came of age during that time, we hold near and dear to our hearts, no matter the genre. There's just something nostalgic, along with the use of practical effects and that non-digital look, that make those movies seem more real and entertaining to me. One of the big sub-genres in the 80s was the body-switching comedy, of which Tom Hanks' Big is probably the most well-regarded. Another movie that fits that bill is Like Father Like Son that starred Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron. One year after that film was released, Hollywood picked a young Fred Savage a year before his role on The Wonder Years, as well as the already popular Judge Reinhold, and decided to make them switch bodies for a 1988 film called Vice Versa.
Make no doubt about it, this story has been done many times before over the years. In fact, this story and the many other films of this sub-genre take their cues from a book written in 1882 of the same name. The chemistry between Savage and Reinhold is excellent, plus it looks like the two actors had a great time in their roles as they both deliver heartfelt, yet funny performances. Other than that, Vice Versa is a by-the-numbers comedy with all of the usual tropes in this type of movie, complete with a musical montage... 80s style. The old switcheroo happens to Marshall Seymour (Reinhold) and his son Charlie (Savage).
Marshall is a workaholic businessman with a swanky downtown apartment, but has no time for his son or any of his activities at school, which is probably why Charlie's mom divorced him. Meanwhile, Charlie is bullied at school and wants to pursue a life of a heavy metal drummer. When a skull artifact makes its way to Marshall's company, the skull transfers the mind, soul, and spirit of the father/son duo to one another. Marshall is in his son's body and Charlie is in his dad's body, which makes way for some hilarious gimmicks. For example, the grown-up Charlie must now go to his father's big office in downtown, keep up with a girlfriend, and solve business problems.
On the other hand, the younger Marshall must now attend Jr. High and keep away from the bullies, do his best at hockey practice, and pass tests. There's nothing really new or original to the story, but the little moments and actors' performances keep this film ticking some 30 years later. That scene where a love note is passed to the older Charlie in class, but ends up in the hands of the teacher, or in a Big type of sequence, where the younger Marshall is rocking out and playing with all of the toys in the department store make the film highly entertaining with a lot of heart.
Reinhold looks like he had a great time playing a young kid in the 80s here with his loose body language and physical comedy. He just sells it every time he's on screen. Savage, on the other hand, shows great restraint and pulls off the stern adult life in a kid's body very well and is quite believable besides his charming high-pitched voice at the time. Vice Versa still brings that nostalgic appeal three decades later and makes you remember what we loved about Reinhold and Savage.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Vice Versa comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from Mill Creek and is Region A Locked. There is no insert of any kind here. There are no trailers and the main menu only consists of playing the film and a subtitle option. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case.
Vice Versa comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For being made in 1988, this film has stood the test of time, visually speaking, and Mill Creek has done a decent job with this transfer. Detail is sharp and vivid with a good filmic look. The layer of grain might fluctuate here and there, but it's not distracting. Tinsel on the Christmas tree, facial pores, acne, freckles, and individual hairs can be seen easily and look great. Wider shots of the department store and school also look quite good with the distinguishing scuff marks and handprints over the props.
Colors keep up, as well, but are never strikingly bold. Instead, the colors are on the warmer side, which gives everything that nostalgic holiday feel. Reds, oranges, and holiday shades of green are dominant throughout. There are some early speckling and debris on the print, but everything clears up once back in the states. Black levels are deep and inky for the most part and the skin tones look natural, leaving this almost 30-year-old film looking very good still.
This release comes with an uncompressed Stereo 2.0 mix and does its job the best it can. It would have been nice to have a 5.1 option here too, since music is a big factor in the film as are all the parties and school scenes, as the stereo track doesn't offer that immersion. Sound effects are still full, but don't pack the punch that it could and most of them sound rather fake. Just take a look at when Judge Reinhold accidentally fires the arrow in the department store. It's just a fake canned sound.
Other ambient noises are better though, which would have been great to hear on the rear speakers, especially during the school hall scenes, or the live music performances in the film. There is still some heft to the mix, especially during music montage scenes, but again, everything is on the front speakers. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss.
Vice Versa still holds up almost 30 years later and has some great jokes and a ton of "before they were famous" cameos. Reinhold and Savage looked like they had a ton of fun on set together and their chemistry is contagious. This story has been done many times, but I think Vice Versa does it better than most and with a lot of heart and soul. The video and audio presentations are both decent, but the lack of extras is disheartening. Couldn't they get Judge or Savage for interviews? Still, this release is much welcomed and comes Recommended!